As the virus that causes COVID-19 has spread, what has also spread is misinformation. University of Guelph biomedical sciences professor Dr. Glen Pyle is helping to change that by volunteering his science knowledge for a group called COVID-19 Resources Canada.
Pyle is the volunteer Ontario co-lead for the group, as well as a co-founder of its #ScienceExplained initiative.
#ScienceExplained aims to bring together experts from multiple scientific and medical disciplines to inform the public about COVID-19 and to dispel myths about the disease and Canada’s response.
COVID-19 Resources Canada began last March to coordinate Canada’s response in the early days of the pandemic by recruiting scientific volunteers and collecting resources such as personal protective equipment and reagents for health labs.
It is now a volunteer database and a collaborative science communication initiative to help educate the Canadian public on the science behind the response to COVID-19.
“As I was helping out with coordinating volunteers in Ontario for the group, I noticed that misinformation was spreading,” Pyle said. “As many scientists know, there is a real cost when misinformation spreads, so I proposed that we tackle this and helped launch #ScienceExplained.”
Pyle knew that the network of volunteer scientists he was already working with could provide accurate information that could be shared across social media, including the group’s YouTube page.
“ScienceExplained is not just about dispelling misinformation; it’s about explaining how science works,” Pyle said. “Many officials in charge of public health messaging have never done research, but we have, and we can explain how things like clinical trials work, or PCR testing or vaccines — we have that expertise.”
Volunteers have also begun to translate the expert-written commentaries into other languages, including French, Spanish and Farsi, to ensure that accurate information reaches as many culturally diverse groups in Canada as possible.
As well as volunteering with the COVID-19 Resources Canada group, Pyle has been working with some of his graduate students to write articles on COVID-19 for the Toronto Star, the Hamilton Spectator, Medium and other publications. Undergraduate students in his cardiology class have also had class assignments on COVID-19 published by the Toronto Star, Lifeomics and Science 2.0.
Although he has received plenty of support from readers who appreciate having their questions answered, there has also been feedback from those who are less receptive and keen to argue.
“I don’t see my job as trying to change minds or to make decisions for people; it’s to give people the real facts and correct information so that they can make informed choices,” he said.
Dr. Glen Pyle